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3 Tips For Targeting Female Audiences in Southeast Asia

How your business can win women over

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BY Tanya Mariano - 16 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Women are more and more becoming a veritable force in the global economy.

In China, female consumers were instrumental in the past decade’s significant growth in e-commerce, medical cosmetology, tourism, and even vocational education, reports Xinhua. A 2013 report by EY even goes so far as to declare women “the next emerging market,” citing rising incomes and purchasing power, and the enormous influence over business, society, and politics that they will wield in the coming years.

It makes sense, then, for companies to reach out to potential female customers.

However, Justine Hulst, head of communications at Orami, one of the biggest female-focused e-commerce brands in Southeast Asia, says marketing to women in the West and to urban, highly-educated women in Southeast Asia is very different from marketing to the “masses of women” in the emerging markets of Thailand and Indonesia, for example.

“[The] paradigm is quite different,” says Hulst. “Here, feminism is still widely perceived as a vindictive and aggressive word… Here, some words and topics are still taboo, abortion is illegal, domestic violence is one of the highest in the world, and rape a very common and underrated social issue.”

Indeed, targeting women in Southeast Asia requires an awareness of such realities and a certain sensitivity to sociocultural nuances.

If your brand is looking to connect with female customers in the region, here are a few general rules to follow.

 

1. Respect diversity – without excluding tradition

Writes serial entrepreneur Margarita Hakobyan in this Inc. article, marketing to women based on broad categories – such as “moms,” “daughters,” or “single women” – is not enough.

“Women are complete, multi-faceted people who have diverse interests and a variety of life experiences. While the fact that we are female may affect [our] purchasing experience, trying to sell to us just as ‘women’ isn't going to be a winning strategy over time,” she says.

Instead, get to know your audience well. Tap into their specific interests, and communicate using niche-specific language.

Hulst, however, argues that it's alright to tap into traditional roles.

“[We] do address women as mothers or daughters sometimes. It's not a bad thing, as long as everyone understands that nobody is limited to one role. We are all juggling with responsibilities and various centers of interest, so we try to represent this diversity without cutting out the traditional categories that people are familiar with.”

 

2. Don’t simply turn everything pink – unless survey says you should

Rendering your logo or other pre-existing graphic in the color pink can be seen as a lazy way to orient your product or service towards women.

“If there was ever a time where simply using pink to attract the attention of women was a viable strategy, that time has passed,” writes Hakobyan.

But if there's compelling reason to do so, go ahead.

When Orami was trying to decide how best to address Thai and Indonesian women, they had two choices, recounts Hulst: “Should we go full-frontal Western feminist because it is ‘the White Man's burden,’ [in the words of] Rudyard Kipling, to educate the market? Or, should we address women on their own existing terms and take it from there, one step at a time?”

The company went with the second option. And when they surveyed the market for insight on how to design Orami’s logo, they found that their target audience does respond better to pink than to any other color.

“So yes, our logo is a shade of pink. We like to call it ‘coral’ because indeed we didn't want to go full ‘Barbie-pink,’” says Hulst.

 

3. Look beyond products and services traditionally geared towards women

Marketing to women is often thought of as confined within a narrow set of industries – fashion, certain food items, electronics in pastel shades, for instance. But businesses should keep in mind that the number of women in leadership positions is ever growing, writes Hakobyan, and so it's important to look at how products and services outside of these industries can resonate with women.

By looking beyond what's traditionally been marketed to females, businesses can open up a whole new world of opportunities for growth.